Autumn and Peyton Blackledge are inaugural chairpersons of the official Krewe of Les Petites Enfants (Order of the Small Children), named in honor of those whose needs it will help support. With an initial goal of 50 participants, the krewe’s membership fee will go towards the purchase of a neonatal transport unit for Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart.
Ascension Sacred Heart Foundation coordinates the Cordova Mall Ball as one of its major fundraising events benefitting sick and injured children. This year’s goal is raising the $350 thousand needed buy the highly-specialized vehicle capable of transporting newborns and children up to age five, anywhere. The Krewe of Les Petites Enfants’ admission fee of $1,000 will supplement the Mall Ball’s proceeds for the purchase.
Autumn, a long-time member of Sacred Heart Foundation’s Board, and her husband Peyton, a professional firefighter in the city of Milton, are natives of Pensacola. Autumn attended Tate High School, while Peyton went to Washington High. Still, they are amazed that they never came across each other as teens. But Peyton theorizes, “I grew up with a kind of downtown crowd and Autumn was more of a north end girl.”
The law firm of Autumn Beck Blackledge, PLLC opened in 2014, concentrating on family and marital law. That same year she met Peyton, her future husband. Their marriage resulted in a blended family of five children. Today, the eldest is serving in the Navy, stationed in England, while the other four are teens in every grade at Central Catholic High School – from freshman to senior.
Autumn and Peyton are delighted that they’ve been given the opportunity to kick-off a krewe at Northwest Florida’s largest Mardi Gras Ball of the season. But what inspires them the most about this project is that children will be the focus, the face of the krewe. Autumn explains, “Our vision is to have – not only in the krewe’s name ‘For the Little Ones’, but featuring the little ones: The children in need, the children that will need the services of Studer Family Children’s Hospital, and the children whose parents have decided to invest and give. “
Autumn was taught at an early age that, “You give your talents, you give your time, you give your treasure.” She and Peyton are trying to impress this mindset upon their children that when you are blessed with more, you need to give back, to help those less fortunate. They point out that the community’s future charitable needs will not continue to be met unless children learn early-on what giving is all about, and then carry forth this tradition as adults. Introducing kids to the Krewe of Les Petites Enfants through their parent’s membership will be a valuable first step. The hope is to help create generations of givers to come.
They point out that community involvement is truly necessary in order to make any charitable undertaking successful. The Cordova Mall Ball has always been well-attended and highly successful because it is an opportunity to have a good time while supporting a worthy cause. However, Autumn and Peyton believe that there are people that desire to become involved in what’s going on in the community, that have never given but would contribute to the needs of the Studer Family Children’s Hospital if the right opportunity arose. They might never have considered being part of a Mardi Gras celebratory event. But – the Krewe of Les Petite Enfants with its emphasis on children hopefully will appeal to them when they realize that it will be their “kids raising money for kids.” And it will give all Mall Ball attendees the opportunity to meet people they have never met before.
In light of the fact that Sacred Heart Foundation’s Mardi Gras mission is one of raising money for the needs of the Studer Family Children’s Hospital, the children of krewe members will be introduced to the hospital. They will learn what it’s all about, its significance for kids, and how their parent’s Krewe participation will benefit the facility.
Autumn and Peyton are staunch advocates of the Studer Family Children’s Hospital and consider it a blessing to have this resource “in our own back yard.” When their daughter was injured in a car accident, she was transported to its emergency room where the care she received was exceptional.
From the perspective of a fireman, Peyton expresses concern that the community sometimes seems to take for granted the presence of this amazing trauma center. It is often mentioned during his training that children from Tallahassee, Baldwin County, Brewton, and the Mobile region are flown to the Studer Family Children’s Hospital for treatment. He states, “Being as we are not a large community, it is an enormous benefit and opportunity for the children in our area. Care for children can remain right here where they reside.”